The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday
I’m proof that you can still wear a miniskirt in midlife – but there are rules
Ginnie Chadwyck-Heal believes that the miniskirt can be an ageless style solution – providing you know how to wear it
“I haven’t seen your legs in about 15 years, yet you’ll get them out for The Telegraph?!” teases my husband when I mention this article. The catalyst for this fashion challenge? Mild rebellion and Miuccia Prada. In short… the miniskirt has caught my eye and I intend to give it a whirl.
I turned 40 in December and with said milestone birthday came a lot of “deep” questions (or digs) from friends and siblings. “Which eye cream are you using now?” “Are you going to start weight training to prevent osteoporosis?” “Do you reckon you’re now perimenopausal?” and of course “How long until you start Botox?” With every decade we cross over from, there comes a barrage of internal (and external) deliberations, largely about self-improvement and age-defying routines. (Answers to above: Sunday Riley and Dior Prestige, yes, yes, no and not yet!)
My husband does have a point. Like many of my friends, I seem to spend a vast amount of time exercising. Body pump on a Monday, tennis coaching on a Tuesday. I am semi-religious about pliés, jetés and pilates as part of my NRG barre body workout, and I still have an affinity for the odd Joe Wicks session, carried over from lockdown. Mine is a healthy relationship with exercise, and a love of the endorphins it offers. Then there’s the leg maintenance – I’ve just completed laser hair removal. I exfoliate, moisturise, maybe even tan. Yet, when it comes to what I wear – for work, to family events, for a summer’s evening, for downtime with my family or for the school run – my legs never feature. They have been in hibernation since about 2008.
Wide-leg trousers, boyfriend jeans, ankle-grazers, long dresses, jumpsuits, midi dresses, opaque tights, exercise kit, track pants… my legs are as wrapped up as a chicken shawarma. That is until a small group of friends discuss rebelling, a conversation akin to a scene from Motherland. “I’ll wear a miniskirt but I’m not getting my knees out, they look like microwave chocolate puddings.” “I’ll give it a go, but only if you share your favourite fake tan… my wintered legs are almost blue.” “How do I get the proportions right so it’s appropriate when I sit down?” “My husband will think I’m having an affair!” says another. “How do we hide cellulite?” And my favourite: “Oh golly, I’m not sure the village of Bucklebury has ever seen a miniskirt…”
The tools for this look are entirely personal preference, but here are some initial suggestions: work with the skirt’s waistband (tuck in your top or roll the hem of your top under) so you lengthen your legs. Opt for lightweight fabrics, or soft pleats to render it less “office secretary” and more day-to-day. Oversize jumpers are ideal for underplaying the whole look. Tartan kilts can be cool – just avoid veering into Britney Spears territory. And yes, I will let you all
The miniskirt is entirely down to inner confidence, which can exist at any age
You want shoes you can walk in, especially if people are going to be looking at your legs
in on that tanning secret… it’s Bare by Vogue (barebyvogue. co.uk, the brand owned by Vogue Williams, presenter, broadcaster and wife of Spencer Matthews). It does the best exfoliating mitt ever and by far the easiest application. For those wanting tights, try Sheertex (sheertex.com). New to the hosiery scene, they’ve realised we need long-term ladder-free tights that last.
And finally, the right footwear. I never endorse a totter. It makes me think of one thing only: blisters. You want shoes you can walk confidently in, especially if people are going to quite obviously be looking at your legs. Start low. Trainers, loafers, Chelsea boots – shoes you can walk, run and drive in. Try Penelope Chilvers and Boden (shown here), and EcoAlf for trainers the whole world doesn’t have. You could graduate to heels to make the look more formal (my preferences being Jimmy Choo, Rupert Sanderson or Camilla Elphick) and then if you want to go for full PhD levels of commitment to the miniskirt look, try kneehigh boots. Boden stands out again, as seen here.
“Is she actually mad?” I hear you say. For full confirmation that I haven’t lost the plot, look to the recent catwalk shows (which pre-empt what’s coming for Autumn/ Winter 23) of Prada, Valentino and Chanel. However, I’m not going to preach. Fashion, we know, is cyclical. Looks come and go. Style is what we are aiming for. And, for whatever reason, the miniskirt has “called” me to worship at its altar – however fleeting this foray might end up being. Perhaps your “calling” is to try a new shoe style, to break out of jeans, or branch into new colours you’ve always deemed offlimits. As much as we want to believe in ageless style solutions, I do think the miniskirt is entirely down to inner confidence – and I maintain that this can exist at any age. For me, I’ve got to a point in my life, with three children in tow, that comes with a new momentum; a curiosity to see how I actually feel in a new look. Or perhaps I’m simply bored of my usual combinations.
When I try the mini, I don’t actually feel as exposed as I had anticipated. In fact, at a girls’ dinner (notice that I tested it out on my girlfriends first) last week, I wore a navy mini dress I hadn’t worn since I worked at Vogue a decade ago. It was short but not inappropriate. I wore knee-high boots and (the other) Vogue once again came to the rescue with her instant tan. At worst I felt selfconscious, given that my outfit was such a conversation starter (everyone else wore a pretty top and trousers). At best (and after a stiff gin and tonic) I felt mildly revitalised that I was re-wearing a great item that had been abandoned for so long. Unlike others around the table, I hadn’t bought a new item to make me feel better, I hadn’t wasted any money on a fleeting endorphin hit.
So perhaps what I’m getting at is that new style solutions can just as easily be borne from old friends lurking in your wardrobe; pieces that have sat forlorn for years. We just have to take the plunge.
Ultimately, the origins of the miniskirt are rooted in rebellion; a rewriting of the rules, the embrace of a new free spirit. That was the 1960s. In 2023, as I type this in a denim miniskirt – with tights, a heavy knit and ankle boots – I’m hardly feeling rebellious. I’m the same person I was yesterday, albeit without the leggings on. I just might have to walk with a little more grace on the school run, that’s all. This is what makes fashion so enjoyable. It can be a momentary escape, it can be our armour, it can be our comfort. We can switch it up and experiment.
As for my husband? No noise, no comment, nothing. Silent approval or total disdain? I can’t tell. There is quiet. And then, with a pirouette across the kitchen, and a near-miss of the laundry rack, he starts singing “Hit me baby one more time”. Enough said.